It has been a big week for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). On May 23, the voting members of the National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction of its membership policy denying membership to youth based on sexual orientation. The change will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
I believe the change in the membership policy is a big win for everyone involved – especially for the youth. It lets all young men participate in Scouting. Regardless of background, personal beliefs or sexual orientation, young men will always benefit from the values and morals the Scout Oath and Law helps instill in them.
The single largest BSA chartering partner – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – agrees with the policy change, which aligns with the Church’s own policy regarding sexual orientation. In a statement released to the public and news media, the Church states:
“The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: ‘”young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate.” This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been – and is not now – a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.”
Imagine for a moment, a young man of the Church confides with his Bishop he is wondering about his sexual orientation and believes he may be homosexual, but has not acted upon those feelings. This young man could participate in all church activities, hold and honor his Priesthood callings and be in good standing throughout the Church. While on the other hand, under the old membership policy, this same young man was technically not permitted to participate in his Scout Troop.
The BSA’s new policy aligns itself well with the Church’s long-standing policy, which focuses less on sexual orientation and more on abiding by good and moral standards. The new BSA policy will not deny “membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference,” but it also reiterates, “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
Likewise, the Church’s statement reiterated its standards in its statement saying, “These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.”
The issue of same sex attraction has been a divisive one that has been aimed squarely at the BSA. With the new membership policy in place, the BSA can now get back to doing what it has always done and will continue to do; implement its mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
Likewise, the Utah National Parks Council in its own statement stated it will “continue to work closely with the BSA and its chartering partners as plans are developed for implementation of the policy change. The Utah National Parks Council remains dedicated to its leadership role in the BSA to provide the resources, funding, activities, training and programs needed to give all youth, volunteer leaders and BSA units the greatest experience possible.”
Now that this week is over, let’s all go for a hike. It’s beautiful out there!
Boy Scouts of America: http://www.scouting.org
Utah National Parks Council: http://www.utahscouts.org
Mormon Newsroom: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org
Mormons and Gays: http://www.mormonsandgays.org